Idaho Power on Jan. 15 filed with the Public Utility Commission of Oregon its 4Q18 transmission update regarding the Boardman to Hemingway (B2H) and Energy Gateway West transmission projects, which it developed jointly with PacifiCorp.
Idaho Power noted that it and PacifiCorp, along with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) have jointly proposed to design, build, operate, and maintain a new, approximately 300-mile, 500-kV, single-circuit electric transmission line from the proposed Longhorn substation near Boardman, Ore., to the Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho.
The permitting phase of the B2H project is subject to federal review and approval by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Department of the Navy, Army Corps of Engineers, and other federal agencies. Idaho Power added that the BLM issued its final environmental impact statement for the project in November 2016, and the BLM released its ROD for the project in November 2017, authorizing the BLM to grant of right of way (ROW) to Idaho Power for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the B2H project on BLM-administered land.
The commission in May 2018 issued an order acknowledging Idaho Power’s 2017 Integrated Resource Plan’s action items to conduct ongoing permitting, planning studies, and regulatory filings for the B2H line, as well as to conduct preliminary construction activities, acquire long-lead materials, and build the B2H project.
The BLM’s ROD triggered the USFS, Navy, and BPA’s decision activities, Idaho Power added, noting that the Navy expects to issue its ROD in 1Q19 and to execute an easement agreement in 2Q19. The BPA expects to issue an ROD in early 2019 for the removal of existing BPA infrastructure, a 69-kV line from the Navy’s bombing range, to clear the ROW for B2H. The USFS issued its final ROD in November 2018 and planned to prepare and execute an easement agreement in early 2019. Idaho Power added that the USFS easement agreement is on hold due to the federal government shutdown.
Regarding the Oregon permitting process, Idaho Power said that the most recent major milestone was the application completeness determination by the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE), which occurred in September 2018. Public informational meetings were held in each of the five Oregon counties directly impacted by the project the week of Oct. 15, 2018. Idaho Power added that the next phase of ODOE’s process is to determine if the project application and proposed conditions are compliant with Oregon state standards.
Along with determining if the project application is compliant, ODOE’s focus is now on preparing and issuing a draft proposed order, which is expected by the end of 1Q19. Idaho Power added that the draft proposed order provides ODOE’s recommendation on whether to issue a site certificate for construction in Oregon. Idaho Power said that it continues to meet with reviewing agencies and other stakeholders to facilitate the ODOE application process.
The company also noted approval of a geotechnical plan of development (POD) and a notice to proceed from the BLM are required prior to taking core samples along the project route to inform the final design of the project. Idaho Power last fall submitted a draft geotechnical POD to the BLM for review and approval. Idaho Power added that it expects to finalize the geotechnical POD this spring and anticipates the BLM will issue a notice to proceed in the fall. Geotechnical sub-surface activities are expected to begin in 2020. The company also said that the BLM’s review and approval process for the Geotechnical POD has been temporarily halted due to the federal government shutdown.
Idaho Power said that it has continued to meet with landowners to micro-site the project route and prepare for an ODOE site certificate amendment in the future.
Of the Gateway West project, Idaho Power said that there were no notable developments in 4Q18.
As noted in the filing, the BLM in November 2013 released its ROD for Segments 1 through 7 and 10 of the Gateway West project. The BLM postponed a decision on the remaining segments – Segment 8 (Midpoint to Hemingway) and Segment 9 (Cedar Hill substation to Hemingway) – to resolve routing in the affected areas.
Idaho Power added that the BLM released its ROD for the remaining segments in January 2017. That decision was appealed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) by certain challengers. The company also said that the BLM in April 2017 requested that the IBLA remand the decision back to the BLM in light of the State of Idaho’s opposition to the BLM-selected route and because the BLM Idaho state director concluded that it was in the best interest to do so. The IBLA in April 2017 granted the BLM’s request and remanded the ROD for Segments 8 and 9 back to the BLM for further consideration.
Idaho Power added that in May 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, which incorporated by reference the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area Boundary Modification Act, which directed the Secretary of Interior to issue a ROW for the portions of the companies’ preferred routes for Segments 8 and 9 that are located within the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA).
The BLM in August 2017 issued a Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) to reconsider its January 2017 decision, and in November 2017, it issued its draft EA for public review and comment. Idaho Power also said that the BLM on Jan. 5 issued its final EA along with a Finding of No New Significant Impact (FONNSI), beginning a 30-day period for protesting the proposed resource management plan amendments. The significance of the FONNSI is that the BLM concluded it does not need to complete an additional or supplemental environmental impact statement before making a decision on Segments 8 and 9, Idaho Power said.